Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 4
For the series outline, click here.
The next section examines Jesus as the kurios of Septuagint passages cited or alluded to in 1 Cor. This involves analysis of 1:2, 31; 2:16; 10:19-22 and 26. While the exegesis varies in persuasiveness, particularly powerful is the association of 1:2 with Gen 12:8, Joel 2:32 (LXX 3.5) plus verses in Deuteronomy, the Psalms and the Prophetic writings. He concludes: 'God's people are still distinguished as those who "call on the name of the Lord"; but the Lord on whom they call is Christ himself' (129). 1:31 is fruitfully read in light of Jer 9:23 LXX:
'The christological implication of such a claim is striking indeed, since the context in Jeremiah has to do with Yahweh's absolute claim to loyalty over all other gods. That Lord, now Jesus Christ, is the one in whom the Corinthians are to boast' (130)
10:20 is then read with Deut 32:17 and 10:22 with Deut 32:21. He concludes:
'Just as Israel made the Lord = Yahweh jealous by sacrificing to "no god" demons, so the Corinthians, by attendance at pagan feasts, are sharing in what is demonic and thus making jealous their Lord = Christ, in whose death and resurrection they participate when they eat and drink at his table' (133).
The next section attends to Kurios Jesus in terms of divine prerogatives. This involves analysis of 'grace' language in 1:3 and 16:23, noting the interchange between God and Lord on this issue (134-35). He also notes the adoption of a Yahweh phrase from the OT, namely 'the day of the Lord' in 1:8, language which Paul now attributes to Christ. 1:10 and 5:3-4 uses the 'In the name of the Lord' formula.
'The point, of course, is that he uses "the name of o kurios", which in the Septuagint is the Divine Name for Yahweh. Here "the name of the Lord" has been transferred altogether to Christ' (135).
In relation to 5:4: 'What is significant christologically is that a judgment pronounced in the Lord's name belongs uniquely to Yahweh, the God of Israel; for Paul, it belongs equally to Christ Jesus' (135). 1:1, 17 and the sent/commissioned by Christ language is fruitfully read in terms of Isa 6:8, and 'the Lord of glory' in 2:8 reflects, Fee maintains, OT themes, such as the king of Glory in Ps 24. Included in this section is analysis of such language in 1 Cor as 'the Lord has Given/Assigned (3:5; 7:17; 12:4), the Lord judges (4:4-5; 11:32), 'if the Lord wills/permits' (4:19; 16:7), 'the power of the Lord Jesus' in 5:4, striving to please the Lord in 7:32, the 'command of the Lord' in 7:10, 12, 25; 9:14 and14:36-37 and the being under Christ's law in 9:21. With Fee's examination of this passage:
'[W]e come to the end of Paul's attribution to Christ as kurios a large number of exact phrases or otherwise divine prerogatives that in the OT belong to God alone, not to angles or to human beings. Although several, or any one, of them might seem incidental and relatively unimportant, their cumulative affect is considerable'. (142, my italics).
Before finishing this extensive chapter, Fee addresses certain texts in 1 Cor that imply subordination. He asserts:
'Finally, we need to examine carefully the two other texts in this letter [besides 15:28 examine elsewhere] that specifically suggest the Son to be in a subordinate relationship to the Father: 1 Cor 3:23; 11:3. And one must be especially careful here because the issue of "being" is simply not part of Paul's epistolary discourse; his concern is always with the role or function of the Son in the divine plan of redemption' (142 italics mine).
In relation to 3:23 ('Christ is of God') he argues that 'such statements as these reflect functional subordination and have to do with Christ's function as Savior, not with his being as such' (142). Further: 'God is the source and goal of everything, both creation and redemption, while Christ is the divine agent of creation and redemption. In this sense, "Christ is of God"' (143). In relation to 11:3 and God as the 'head' of Christ, he denies a subordination/submission relationship between husband and wife in this context, and argues that '[a]lthough one cannot be certain here, most likely it was a useful metaphor to express something of a chronology of "salvation history" (147).
In conclusion to this important chapter, Fee makes five points that he believes his exegesis has demonstrated: 1) The important christological themes found in this letter are as follows: 'the exalted Christ as messianic King and Son; Christ as "the Lord" of ever so many Septuagint texts where "the Lord" is Yahweh; Christ's sharing with the Father a great many divine prerogatives' (147). 2) He has found clear christological pre-existence statements. 3) 1 Cor affirms a divine economy, not ontological, subordination of the Son to the Father. 4) Christ's humanity is clearly affirmed. 5) These points are never a point of argumentation in Paul, as such, but assumed. Finally, and 6):
'the most challenging matter of all remains: the danger of analysis without adequate appreciation for the absolute centrality of Christ for Paul, an analysis of what Paul believed about Christ by way of what he says about his Lord that fails to comprehend and communicate his utter and total devotion to Christ—a devotion that a good Jew could give only to his God ... And at the end of the day, however one handles the language of Paul's express statements about Christ, there is no genuine Christology that does not account for Paul's utter devotion to and longing for Christ, which finds expression here and in all of his letters' (148).
In the following posts we turn to Fee's synthesis section.